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Shopping for a Sustainable Planet—Part I



Last week, Amazon delivered two razors in a box that could have held a winter parka, and then, presumably to prevent them from rattling around, the empty space was stuffed with bubble wrap. This is not the first time this has occurred. Over the holidays we received a non-breakable gift from West Elm, and it too came swathed in bubble wrap—enough to make a red-carpet ready dress that would still leave the wearer decently covered.


When you possess the heart of a crow, and every shiny object calls to you, it's difficult to curb the urge to shop. But seriously, where does one draw the line? If I forgo the purchase of X, will it save the planetary Y? If I can't live without it, do I buy it online or go to the store?


In an effort to streamline our household shopping habits, we've made some progress. To the good, Lee and I have eliminated about 98% of meat and animal products from our diets. So, we can celebrate a chunk of carbon savings there. Additionally, I've shifted most of my clothing purchases from new to gently used. But there's still the packaging and shipping to think about.


My ears perk up when people talk about minimalism. Although, it does sound like the kind of thing where one owns four forks and undies to last the week. In our house, Lee buys toilet paper in bulk—still. Maybe we'll try for basic, rather than minimalist. When we must make a purchase, what's the most environmentally friendly way to go about it?


Like many others, our online shopping increased during the pandemic. Now, even though life has opened up a bit, Amazon is still a thing. I've been telling myself that one truck delivering many goods is better than all of us out in our cars going to the shops. According to the research I've been reading, that's a definite maybe. In the end, it boils down to transportation more than the packaging—it's still about fossil fuels.





Studies show that when we buy online, we return more things and transportation costs can go up. We do better if we reduce impulse purchases and build more time into the process. If I put in my order and can wait for the delivery, the shipping can be consolidated with other goods in my area. If I think I need it now, there's an environmental cost to that—even when Amazon says it's free.


And, according to the people who study these things, if I decide to shop brick and mortar, I should do it all at once—consolidate trips and get everything I need in one go round. Don't split the list between online and in the car, because it all adds up to more vehicles on the road.


In the end, the most important consideration may be to think about whether the items on the shopping list are worthy of our limited natural resources. How can we make that assessment?


What I want is a carbon price tag on goods. What does it cost to manufacture a product, pack it, transport it? And then, if more energy is involved in its use, I want to know that too.

There is talk in the fashion industry and elsewhere of delivering such information; a carbon price tag analogous to a nutrition label on packaged food. Skeptics warn of the green-washing effect where a company might spin the data for beneficial effect. But we have to start somewhere.


What methods do you use to minimize the impact of your purchases?

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I'm living in a 460-square foot studio apartment with a Murphy bed in the wall, a six-foot by 11 foot kitchen, and a walk-in closet that has a capacity for enough clothing for one person. If I buy anything, I have to have room for it. I have lived this way for the past 22 years, and until Covid, I was able to have meetings and serve meals in my space, and could even have guests overnight. I bought a sofa-bed and paid a small fortune to have a mattress installed that didn't make my guests wake up feeling as if they'd slept on a folded out monopoly board that left them with lower back pains.


I've lived here for…


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dkane0819
dkane0819
14 mar 2022
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All of this makes so much sense, Carol! Homes that are too large for the occupants seem to be very demanding. I get the sense that it's difficult to escape them to enjoy the world beyond. Our home is small too, but we're not as efficient as your are. We moved here when the kids were at home. When we eventually downsize, I think I want to steal a few pages from your book! ;-)

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We do have a microwave, and internet - we have a satellite dish for TV, but Bob still has an antenna on the house and several old TVs that work off .air. We are just very frugal (aka cheap) and were brought up by people who married during the great depression. We didn't buy a new car from 1971 to 2016 - all used cars. A lot of used cars so at one time we had 20 cars on the property. But they only cost $200/300.00 so we had no car payment all those years.


Pop was an early recycler. He and Bob built the house on the shore themselves from the ground up One of the things he d…


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Bob learned from his father (Robert Hewett Beasley Sr) (not my father). I don't know where his father learned, because Anderson Hewett Beasley died when he was 46 years old leaving Granny (Florence Diggs Beasley) a widow with four children. Her mother-in-law (Mary Sidney Hewett Beasley) supported her so she could stay home and didn't have to go out and work. Sidney Hewett Beasley's father Robert Carson Beasley has a very interesting will which says in part.


"All my remaining property real and personal of every description and wherever situated shall be divided equally in two parts one of which parts shall go to my son Edward A. Hewett, and the other part shall go in trust to the Fidelity…

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dkane0819
dkane0819
12 mar 2022

Well you may not be doing these things in order to reduce your carbon footprint, but I'm sure the planet thanks you anyway. There's just a beauty I think in being efficient about the things we acquire and use. ❤️

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Invitado
12 mar 2022

I di not call myself a minimalist. But I do not have the comforts that most households have. (No microwave, no cable, internet on the phone)I, too am amazed that an item that gets shipped is in a package that is 20x the sized that is needed. I have used bubble wrap, but many times I over wrap items with newspaper ( yes, I still get one delivered)

I wish I can do more, like get a higher efficiency heater, but I cannot afford it now. Same with my car. Trade in my '96 Grand Am for a Hybrid. Again, cost is a factor. So, I may not do as much as you and your family does, but If we…

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dkane0819
dkane0819
12 mar 2022
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It sounds like you're doing a lot of good things. I also would like a more sustainable heating system for our home, but the cost is a factor. And as for cars, I was telling a friend recently that I wanted to get an electric vehicle, but I can't find one that has the range I'm looking for that isn't too expensive. He pointed out that by not buying it, there are manufacturing savings. So I'll pass that along to you too. Until the day comes when you decide to replace the old car, at least you're getting the most you can out of a previously manufactured product. We do what we can. Thank you for sharing!

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I hate to shop. Probably dates back to my mother dragging me through department stores when I was a kid. She lived for bargains. In those days also, we made a lot of our own clothes. Which I continued to do through the 70s. I have 5 or 6 pairs of shoes that I wear regularly and one of them is at least 20 years old. When I get clothing that doesn't fit or is otherwise not something that I want to wear, I don't return it - I donate it to a charity shop. I still have a lot of clothes because we take care of our things and try to buy good quality. I only buy cloth…


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